Barcelona is one of the most popular cities to visit in Europe, but a trip to Barcelona can be expensive.  You may be wondering if it is over-rated or if it actually deserves the hype.   Is Barcelona worth visiting or should you choose another city for your vacation?

The city of Barcelona has a lot to offer its visitors.  There are ways to save money, so don’t let that that keep you from visiting one of my favorite cities. If you’re not convinced, I will explain why you need to go to Barcelona and share some tips for your trip.

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arch in barcelona

Barcelona is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.

About Barcelona

Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, an autonomous community in the northeastern part of Spain, and the second largest city in Spain behind Madrid.  The city is located on the Mediterranean coast between the Llobregat and Besòs rivers.  It’s just east of the Serra de Collserola mountain range.

While the city was founded by the Romans around during the first century BC, the earliest settlements in Barcelona were thought to have been during Neolithic times, so it has plenty of history.  It was conquered by the Visigoths in the early 5th century, and then by the Arabs in the early 8th century. 

Later, under the Spanish monarchy, Barcelona became the center of the Catalonian nationalism movement.  After the Spanish Civil War, many resident fled to France as the use of the Catalan language was restricted.  After Franco died in 1975, Barcelona pressed for change and were granted Catalan autonomy in 1977.

In more recent years, the city has continued to prosper.  Especially when Spain joined the European Community and even more so when it hosted the Summer Olympic Games in 1992.  Barcelona moved away from being such an industrial city and became more tourist-friendly.

10 Reasons to Visit Barcelona

If you are on the fence about whether or not to go to Barcelona, these points might persuade you.  It’s a unique city with something to offer everyone no matter their interests. 

#1 Easy to Get To

It’s always nice when your destination is easy to get to and this is the case with Barcelona. 

You can fly into El Prat de Llobregat Aeropuerto (BCN) direct from many places including the USA.   It is served by low-cost carriers, like Ryanair, too. Once you land it is quick and easy to get from BCN to the city center.  Alternatively, you could fly into Girona or Reus which are approximately 75 miles away and access Barcelona using transfer services.

If you are traveling to Barcelona from another place in Spain, the train or bus could be a sensible option.  There is a high speed train between Madrid and Barcelona that only takes 2.5 hours.  While buses do take longer, they are comfortable and equipped with Wi-Fi in most cases.

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Barcelona also has a port which makes it a popular destination for Mediterranean cruises.  The port is huge and has seven cruise terminals.  Some are walking distance to the city center, while it’s best to take the shuttle bus from other terminals.

#2 Lots of Attractions

You don’t have to worry about running out of things to do when you visit Barcelona.  I still have a long list of things that I want to do on my next trip.

First, it has one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world La Sagrada Familia.  This is Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece which hopefully will be finished in the near future.  It’s one of the most unique and beautiful churches I have ever been to.  While the outside of the building is impressive, you need to see the inside.  It has some of the most magical stained glass.  There are several other Gaudi works in Barcelona including Park Guell, Casa Batlló, and more.

stained glass at la sagrada familia

Pictures can’t justice to the stained glass inside La Sagrada Familia.

La Sagrada Familia is not the only church in Barcelona worth visiting. Barcelona Cathedral, Santa Maria del Mar, and Santa Maria del Pi may not be as unique as La Sagrada Familia, they are still impressive.

Santa Maria Del Mar

Santa Maria del Mar is one of the other churches to visit in Barcelona.

In addition to Park Guell, Barcelona has several other parks you will want to check out.   Parc del Laberint d’Horta and Parc de la Ciutadella are charming places for a walk.

Another unique sight is Poble Espanyol, a neighborhood created for the 1929 World Fair.  It has 117 buildings that are replicas of Spanish architecture from the 15 regions of the country.

The city is also home to some of the best museums in Spain including the Barcelona City History Museum, Museu Nacional D’Art de Catalunya, a Picasso Museum, and more. You can also just go to the beach and relax.

Also, don’t miss the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc.  On select nights, it puts on quite the show for free.

#3 Unique Architecture

The architecture in Barcelona might be my favorite thing about the city.  It has a fun mix of modern and classical styles like many other European cities (e.g. London, Hamburg), but the point that sets it apart from others is Gaudi’s unique style.

close up casa mila by Gaudi

Gaudi made his mark all over Barcelona.

The Barcelona Pavilion designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich for the 1929 International Exposition was an important building in the history of modern architecture.  In the years leading up to the Olympic Games, construction boomed and more striking properties have been designed.  If you enjoy modern architecture, be sure to check out Torre de Gas Natural by Miralles & Tagliabue, Torre Agbar by Jean Nouvel, the Forum Building by Herzog and de Meuron, and Porta Fira Hotel by Toyo Ito.

You will also find a unique gothic style in Barcelona.  Catalan Gothic differs from the Gothic styles from other parts of Europe because its buildings do not seek excessive heights or have flying buttresses.  Some examples of this style include the Barcelona Cathedral, Monastery of Pedralbes, and Palau Reial Major.

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#4 Delicious Food

Barcelona is a wonderful city for foodies.  It’s known for its Catalan cuisine, tapas, and seafood. Some of the traditional dishes to taste in Barcelona are Fideuà (a bit like paella), Escalivada (a smoky vegetable dish), and Crema Catalana (similar to crème brulee).

Fideuà

Fideuà is one of the local dishes to try in Barcelona.

There are plenty of choices when it comes to restaurants.  The one issue I have is that when you are in Barcelona, like other Spanish cities, dinner is not until late.  Many restaurants won’t even open before 8 pm.

In addition to restaurants, you also need to check out the La Boqueria Market.  Be sure to go hungry as there will be lots of things you will want to try.

#5 Diverse Day Trip Options

When you visit Barcelona, it’s a good idea to allow time to go on excursions outside the city.  There are many interesting day trips from Barcelona.   You can go to see mountains, beaches, museums, ruins, monasteries, wine regions, and lovely villages.

The easiest day out from Barcelona is probably Montserrat where you can see the famous Black Madonna inside the Basilica. Other popular options include Girona, Sitges, and Tarragona. 

sitges

Sitges is a fantastic beach excursion within reach from Barcelona

#6 Fun Beaches

Barcelona is on the coast with miles of beaches. The water is warm enough to swim in from about May until September.  If you don’t feel like swimming, there is plenty of people watching to keep you entertained.

beach in barcelona

It’s fun and easy to go to the beach when you visit Barcelona.

It’s easy to escape to the beach using the Metro and then walking a bit.  The most popular beach is Barceloneta, which can be crowded and dirty, but there are several other options like Bogatell, Somorrostro, and Nova Icaria. 

While you can find some nice beaches in Barcelona, there are even better ones if you are willing to travel a bit further. It is worth it to journey a bit outside the city to go to the beaches in Sitges or even the Costa Brava.

#7 Exciting Nightlife

If you are looking to have a fun night out, Barcelona will deliver.  The one thing you have to keep in mind is that things get going late.  Bars start getting busy around 11 pm, while nightclubs don’t get going until 1 am.

view of barcelona at night

Barcelona comes alive at night.

Port OIimpic is the best area for clubbing, as you’ll find several large beach clubs (Opium, Pacha, CDLC, Shoko and Catwalk) next to each other. You could also do a Barcelona boat party.  For more casual bar options, explore the Gothic Quarter, El Born and Raval. 

Alternatively, you could try a rooftop bar and enjoy the view along with a cocktail.  Many of the top roof bars in Barcelona are inside hotels like the W, Hotel Pulitzer, and Barcelona Edition.  You don’t have to be a hotel guest to enjoy the bar.

With all the options, it could be a fun city to do a pub/bar crawl.

#8 Nice Weather

The weather in Barcelona is pleasant most of the year.  With the mountains at one end and the sea at the other, the city is protected from a lot of rain and bad weather.

It’s warmer than many other European destination and doesn’t stay unbearably hot for too long.  While May to July typically have the best weather, August may be a bit hot and humid.  The winter is typically mild, so while you will need to bring coats, you can leave the heavy-duty winter gear at home.

#9 Easy to Get Around

The public transportation in Barcelona is excellent.  Most attractions are within walking distance of a metro or tram station.  We used the metro, buses, and walking to get around and never got lost! There are several different pass options to make it even more affordable.

metro in Barcelona

We didn’t have any issues using the metro in Barcelona.

If you like hop on hop off tours, there are a few in Barcelona.

Note: Some city passes include public transportation and hop on hop off tours or you can buy the Hola Barcelona Travel Card.

#10 You Don’t Need to Speak the Language

In Catalonia, there are two official languages, Spanish and Catalan, but because there are so many tourists in Barcelona, most people also speak English.  I didn’t even need to try and remember the broken Spanish I learned in high school.

Things to Know Before Visiting Barcelona

If you haven’t been to Barcelona yet, there are a few additional considerations to bring to your attention.  

Safety in Barcelona

Barcelona has a reputation for being a dangerous city for tourists.  While violent crime is very low, petty theft is a problem.  You need to be alert and watch out for pickpockets especially in the tourist areas.  

Here are a few important safety tips to follow when you travel:

  • Keep your passport in a safe or securely stored somewhere in your accommodation.  Have a copy to carry with you.
  • Don’t carry anything of value in your backpack, purse, or back pocket.  Use a money belt.
  • Stay alert and hold on to any belongings. Don’t set cameras or phones down on the table.

When to Visit Barcelona

You can visit Barcelona any time of the year.  That said, the best time to visit Barcelona is probably either the spring or fall when it’s not too hot or too cold and the crowds aren’t as big. 

If you want to spend time at the beach and don’t mind the heat or crowds, go to Barcelona in the summer.  Those that live in colder countries will find Barcelona to be a nice escape from the cold in the winter.

How Long to Stay in Barcelona

If you just stay in Barcelona a weekend, you will only scratch the surface of what there is to see.  If you can, I think four days will give you a chance to get to know the city.  It’s ideal if you can stay for five days so that you also have time to do a day trip and see more of the area.

How to Save Money When You Visit Barcelona

Barcelona is probably the most expensive city to visit in Spain, but here are a few ideas to help keep costs under control:

  • Consider getting an attraction pass.  For Barcelona, you have plenty to choose from including Go Barcelona Pass, Barcelona Card, and Turbopass Barcelona.
  • Make use of public transportation to get around.  You don’t need to rent a car or take taxis which can add up quickly.  We found the metro in Barcelona easy to use and efficient.
  • Take advantage of free attractions – You can relax at the beach or one of the city’s lovely parks.  It’s also fun to walk around and check out the interesting architecture.  Many museums are free the first Sunday of the month.

Is Barcelona Worth Visiting?

Yes.  In spite of the crowds, high prices, and safety concerns, Barcelona is a unique city that I loved and look forward to visiting again.

Have you been to Barcelona, Spain?

-Anisa

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view of the city of barcelona with text overlay "is barcelona worth visiting?"

Expert Tips for Visiting Barcelona

  • Stay in Barcelona more than a weekend if you can.
  • Keep your guard up and be on the look out for pickpockets especially in tourist areas.
  • Book popular attractions like La Sagrada Familia in advance.

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Last Updated on April 1, 2021